Harvard cheating scandal opens Ivy basketball race

Harvard cheating scandal opens Ivy basketball race

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) Harvard was stocked up and ready to make a run at its third consecutive Ivy League title. Then came a cheating scandal that cost the Crimson two of its top seniors and, probably, their chances at an NCAA tournament berth.

Co-captains Kyle Casey and Brandyn Curry have been scratched from the roster in the wake of a school-wide investigation into whether as many as 125 students shared answers or plagiarized on a take-home, open-book final exam in a single course. Although potential punishments could range from an admonishment to a year away from school, the two seniors reportedly withdrew from school rather than endanger their final season of eligibility.

Now the two-time defending Ivy champions - Harvard shared the title with Princeton in 2011 - have come back to the pack and restored Princeton to its usual spot as a favorite to earn the conference's automatic NCAA berth.

``With the nature of college sports, you're going to have instability,'' Harvard coach Tommy Amaker said in a conference call with reporters. ``You learn to adjust, and that's what we're doing. And those things can bring out magical moments or interesting times, or growth moments. And those are the things we have our sights set on, to think of it in that regard: as an opportunity.''

So far, Harvard's roster shuffle is mostly an opportunity for Princeton: In a poll of Ivy League media, the Tigers were installed as the preseason favorite to win to win their 27th conference title. Princeton was ranked first on 16 of 17 ballots in the poll taken in October, after the Harvard players had withdrawn.

``I don't enjoy seeing it, and I don't think anyone does,'' Princeton coach Mitch Henderson said. ``Despite losing some important pieces, Harvard's still going to be very good. Things remain the same here: The expectations are fairly high, and we're excited to get going.''

Princeton is led by preseason player of the year pick Ian Hummer, who had 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game last year, when the Tigers finished third to Harvard and Penn. Forward Mack Darrow and center Brendan Connolly will provide Princeton with an experienced frontcourt.

The Tigers tied Harvard atop the conference in 2011 - Harvard's first-ever Ivy title - but Princeton earned the automatic berth for the NCAA tournament in a one-game tiebreaker. Last season, the Crimson broke into The Associated Press Top 25 for the first time ever and won the championship outright to make the tournament for the first time since 1946; they lost to Vanderbilt in their opening game.

With Curry and Casey expected to return, along with junior guard Laurent Rivard, Harvard was the favorite to return to the NCAAs. But the investigation forced Amaker to shuffle his lineups just a couple of months before the season opener.

``This is what this time of year is about: seeing the younger kids come in, and seeing if they can adjust and adapt, the capacity that they have for learning,'' Amaker said. ``We're hopeful that everybody we have will be able to contribute, and certainly with our team this year we may look to different lineups and different combinations that will include younger players.''

Harvard was picked second in the preseason poll, receiving the other first-place vote.

``It's hard for anyone to overcome losing two seniors,'' said Columbia coach Kyle Smith, whose team was third in the poll a year after finishing sixth in the eight-team conference. ``I think people know there's a lot of talent in a lot of these programs. The league will be good, obviously. It wasn't easy for them to dominate the league last year - and they didn't: It came down to the last weekend.''

Columbia broke into the top half of the preseason poll for just the fourth time in school history. The Lions are followed by Cornell, Penn, Yale, Brown and Dartmouth.

Cornell returns 10 of its top 12 scorers from a year ago, including reigning Ivy League rookie of the year Shonn Miller, a sophomore guard. Penn is hoping junior Miles Cartwright can help fill in for the loss of Zack Rosen, who averaged 18 points and 5.2 assists for the Quakers last year.

``I'm not asking Miles to step up and be Zack; I'm asking Miles to step up and be Miles Cartwright,'' Penn coach Jerome Allen said. ``I'm not going to allow (him), and he doesn't allow himself, to be caught up in trying to be someone else.''

Amaker stressed that the Harvard team that made it to the NCAA tournament last year was ``a number of years in the making'' - a result of a system he installed that began to emerge with the development of NBA star Jeremy Lin and led to the school's co-Ivy championship in 2011.

He isn't going to change things just because he lost two key players.

``We believe in our system, our philosophy and our approach,'' Amaker said.

``When you think of moments of exceptional growth or surprises, those are neat stories. We've been a part of some really, really neat stories before, and maybe this is another one that's in our favor.''

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

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Redskins G Arie Kouandjio likely out for the seasons

The news about Arie Kouandjio’s quad injury didn’t sound good when NBC Sports Washington broke it a couple of weeks ago. It didn’t sound any better when Jay Gruden said that they were seeking a second opinion. 

And now we have word that Kouandjio will be out for the season, per multiple media reports. While there was some initial hope that he might be able to play at some point this season, he is likely to be put on injured reserve soon. 

The corresponding move is expected to be the signing of guard Isaiah Williams, per JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington. He spent training camp with the Redskins in 2016 and 2017 before being released in the final cuts. Last year he also spent time with the Chiefs and the Colts but he has yet to appear in an NFL game. 

At worst, the Redskins have lost their starter at left guard. Kouandjio was set to compete with Shawn Lauvao for that job. Lauvao, who has been the starter at left guard going into the season for each of the last four years, would have been tough to unseat, but the 26-year-old Kouandjio may have had the inside track.

And at best, the Redskins lost experienced depth. Last year, when injuries hit hard along the offensive line, Kouandjio was re-signed and he started six games. It’s tough to lose experienced depth before the players even put pads on.

We will see if the Redskins make a move to shore up the guard position. Over the next couple of weeks, teams will be evaluating their veteran players and their rookies to see if they have younger and cheaper options. That could lead to some serviceable players getting released or some quality options being put on the trading block. 

The Redskins likely are set to get four compensatory draft picks in 2019, which would give them a total of 11 selections. They certainly could afford to deal one of those picks if they are offered a chance to upgrade at left guard. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- The draft: Redskins should get 4 additional picks in 2019 draft
- Schedule series: Gotta beat the Cowboys

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby saved his best performance of the season for when the Caps needed it most

Braden Holtby has been largely overshadowed in the headlines of the Eastern Conference Final by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

After two games, Vasilevskiy was one of the bigger storylines for how poorly he played in giving up 10 goals in just five periods. The next three games after that, the storyline changed to how well he was suddenly playing and how he had helped the Lightning steal two wins in Washington and take a 3-2 series lead after Game 5.

Holtby was not mentioned much. His play was not the reason the Caps went up 2-0 or the reason they went down 3-2.

But if the Caps hoped to force a Game 7, they needed him to at least be a reason why they won Game 6.

Holtby responded in a big way. With his team facing elimination, Holtby registered his first shutout of both the regular season and the playoffs.

"It's a perfect time," Devante Smith-Pelly said after the game. "He's been great all year. Obviously an up-and-down year for him personally, but the way he's bounced back, he's been amazing all throughout the playoffs."

Holtby is now just the seventh goalie in NHL history to record his first shutout of the season in a game in which his team faced elimination.

Holtby, however, was not concerned with the stats or the shutout.

"The only reason it’s good is we won," Holtby said of his shutout performance. "Aside from that, it’s just good for [the media], I guess you can write about it. But for us it’s just that W."

Vasilevskiy made a number of jaw-dropping saves, especially in the first period, but Holtby matched him save for save as both teams battled for the first goal. With the score knotted at zero, Holtby made a toe save on Anthony Cirelli on a 2-on-1 opportunity to keep the Lightning off the board. He really upped his game in the third period as Tampa Bay made a late push to tie it. He turned aside 10 shots that frame including a nifty snag on Nikita Kucherov and a glorious glove save on Ondrej Palat.

Holtby's performance ensured the Caps would live to fight another day...for now.

As the series shifts back to Tampa Bay, Washington will again be facing elimination. This time, however, so will their opponents.

Anything can happen in a Game 7. In a winner-take-all game, it may come down to who has the better goalie on Wednesday and Holtby seems to be picking a good time to up his game.

"Braden has been the backbone of our hockey club," Barry Trotz said. "You can’t go anywhere without goaltending and he’s been solid. ... Braden is a true pro, he works on his game, he finds ways to make a difference and he does."